Fade to White
“Where have you been?” Ramo called out, running to Jerek with an anxious expression on his face.
Jerek paused, but he avoided looking directly at Ramo, instead staring down to the side. Finally, after considering for a second what he should say, Jerek replied, “Womanizing.” As Ramo stood stunned, Jerek continued on, going into his bedroom and slamming the door shut, locking it as well. He instantly dropped down to his knees and pulled out a cigaret, lighting it and sucking on it hard. Sitting at the window, he stared outside without really seeing anything, a heavy and painful feeling lodged into the center of his chest. His dream was over. The magic of the new life he had tried to build was dashed by the reality of whom he was. More than anything, he mourned the fact that she had cried because of him.
Putting his hand up against the window sill, Jerek leaned his forehead against it and closed his eyes. The pain was too much as it spread from his chest to the back of his throat, where it formed into a ball that threatened to choke him if he didn’t let it out. A sound managed to escape, jolting his entire body as it did. Jerek pressed himself tighter against his hand, his fingers digging at the stone and his eyes squeezing shut, but that didn’t stop the single droplet from hitting the bottom of the window sill, or the one that followed it.
“Jerek!” Ramo called, first trying the doorknob then banging his fist on the door. “Let me in Jerek! We need to talk!”
Jerek jumped up, quickly gulping down the knot in the back of his throat and wiping his eyes. “What do you want?” he called out, but immediately regretted it because of the shakiness in his voice. It was obvious that Ramo had noticed it because there was a stronger sense of urgency when he replied,
“I need you to let me in!”
This was no good. Ramo was perceptive enough to realize that something was wrong with him, and stubborn enough not to leave him alone until he knew why. Sometimes Ramo was too feminine for Jerek’s liking. Opening the door, Jerek stood and looked at Ramo as he silently stared back at him. Jerek knew his eyes were probably red and tired looking, but he firmly set his mouth against portraying any emotion.
“What happened?” Ramo asked timidly.
“Nothing.” Jerek retreated back into his bedroom, leaving the door open for Ramo to follow.
“So you’re just having a little PMS?”
Jerek whirled around, punching the wall in a sudden fit of anger, yelling as he did so, “I told you nothing happened!”
Ramo pulled his lip back, slightly biting it. “Maybe this really is PMS.”
“I’m sorry.” Looking down at the floor, Ramo seemed on the verge of crying himself. “Something bad happened to you, and here I am making fun of you. I shouldn’t be so mean to you. You don’t deserve it.”
Jerek’s mood switched again, and he himself wondered about his hormonal balance as he felt the urge to laugh. “I deserve every form of cruelty I get, and even more.”
“No, you don’t!”
“Yes I do.”
There was a pause for a moment, and when Ramo realized that Jerek had no intention of elaborating, he asked, “What did you mean when you said that you had been womanizing?”
“Nothing.” Finding an excuse, Jerek added, “I just wanted to throw you off.”
Even in the current circumstance, Ramo couldn’t stop his smile of relief. “Then what have you been doing?”
“Hanging out in Amber, mostly.”
“Are you upset because the Commander sent the troops out without you? You must understand that you had simply disappeared for a few days and that no one knew where you were. The Commander was furious, and then he finally sent the soldiers out.” A sudden realization seemed to hit Ramo, and he looked up at Jerek with large eyes. “What are you going to do about the Commander? He’s going to skin you alive!”
“I can take care of myself. It doesn’t matter.”
“No, it does matter! Nosaj was livid! He said that he was going to punish you severely for just abandoning him like that. Jerek, you’re going to get whipped!”
“Then so be it.” Jerek shrugged. “So what if I get whipped? It doesn’t really matter anyway.”
“Yes it does.” Testing, Ramo put his hand against Jerek’s chest, and when Jerek didn’t react he proceeded to lay his head against him as well. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Gulping down the urge to cry, Jerek reached up and uncertain with himself touched Ramo’s shoulder, causing Ramo to look up at him with surprise. “There are some things that we don’t have any control over.”
“No, don’t say that.” Clutching Jerek’s shirt, Ramo shook his head as sparkling tears appeared in the corners of his eyes. “There is always something we can do! Don’t give up! I don’t want you to be beaten, so please help me to help you avoid that punishment!”
“You’re so girly.” Prying Ramo’s hands away, Jerek smirked. “If I’m in the mood, then maybe I’ll try something. You really shouldn’t get all emotional and desperate like that. It’s not masculine. I’m tempted to think that you’re really a girl who disguised herself as a man. That would be shameful.”
“I am not! I’m a man! I just happen to be a little more in touch with my emotions than you do, and that’s all there is to it. I bet that you feel every single emotion that I do. You just keep it bottled up.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Though, inside Jerek couldn’t help but admit that Ramo was right. At that very moment his heart was back at the cottage, and his desire to be with and protect Tryne was as strong as it had ever been. “So you think it’s important to follow your emotions?”
“Yes. Especially when the emotion is strong, because holding it back will only damage you on the inside.”
“Hmm,” Jerek grunted. “Where is Nosaj?”
“In the Throne Room. Why?”
“Might as well get this over and done with now.”
“You’re crazy!” Ramo called after him as Jerek walked steadily down the hallway toward the Throne Room. Often, he had gone to that room to report news on various activities, but never before had he been in trouble like this. Although on the outside he seemed confident, inside he was scared. There was a part of him now that never wanted to see Nosaj again, a part of him that hated Nosaj with everything he had, the part that blamed Nosaj for all the misery he had ever experienced in his life.
“Wait!” Ramo yelled, and Jerek did stop, turning around while Ramo ran to catch up to him. “I’m going with you.”
“If you don’t want to see me get hurt, I suggest you stay here.”
“You won’t get hurt. I won’t let you.”
“Then if you don’t want to see me hurt Nosaj, stay here.”
“Huh?” Ramo frowned, confused.
“Haven’t you ever really thought about it? What happened to your sister, how my parents died, what if those things didn’t really occur how we were told they did?”
“I don’t understand.”
Jerek sighed, putting his hand on his forehead as he turned around and started walking again. “If Nosaj is such a benevolent ruler, then why do so many people hate him? Commoners don’t seem to be stupid and rebellious at all.”
“We were attacked by a mob.” Ramo’s voice was dark, his head pointed down as he spoke. “A band of peasants who knew about my father’s position with the Commander came in the middle of the night and burned our house down. They dragged my older sister out by her hair, tore and shredded her clothes, then raped her so brutally she died. All while I watched!” Ramo looked up, tears streaming from his eyes. “The louder she screamed, the harder they laughed! It was Nosaj who . . . it was him who took me in and gave me a new home to live in, and he gave me the best friend that I’ve ever had. I can’t believe that Nosaj is wrong! His methods may be harsh, his morals may be dead, but that doesn’t make him a liar! People hate him because he rules them, because they’ll always hate someone more powerful than they are!”
“Ramo . . .”
“It was Nosaj who took you in too! He gave you your position. He made you his heir! He saved you from those same peasants that attacked my family! They knew about you, they knew that . . .”
“That’s enough!” Jerek yelled, cutting Ramo off. Quieter, he added, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said those things. It’s just that . . .”
Ramo didn’t say anything in reply, continuing to look at Jerek with tears in his eyes. Hesitantly, Jerek stepped forward and put one arm around Ramo, pulling him into a hug. “I’m sorry, I don’t want you mad at me too,” he whispered.
“Jerek, I . . .”
“Touching.” Nosaj’s voice was cold and menacing, an exact reflection of his eyes while he stood watching Jerek and Ramo.